David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
Mind 111 (443):519-550 (2002)
It is a natural thought that understanding language consists in possessing knowledge—to understand a word is to know what it means. It is also natural to suppose that this knowledge is propositional knowledge—to know what a word means is to know that it means such-and-such. Thus it is prima facie plausible to suppose that understanding a bit of language consists in possessing propositional knowledge of its meaning. I refer to this as the epistemic view of understanding language. The theoretical appeal of this view for the philosophy of language is that it provides for an attractive account of the project of the theory of meaning. If understanding language consists in possessing propositional knowledge of the meanings of expressions, then a meaning theory amounts to a theory of what speakers know in virtue of understanding language. In this paper I argue that, despite its intuitive and theoretical appeal, the epistemic view is false. Propositional knowledge is not necessary for understanding language, not even tacit knowledge. Unlike knowledge, I argue, linguistic understanding does not fail in Gettier cases, does not require epistemic warrant and does not even require belief. The intuitions about knowledge that have been central to epistemology do not seem to hold for linguistic understanding. So unless epistemologists have been radically mistaken about what knowledge requires, knowledge is unnecessary for understanding language.
|Keywords||No keywords specified (fix it)|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
|Through your library|
References found in this work BETA
No references found.
Citations of this work BETA
Kareem Khalifa (2013). Is Understanding Explanatory or Objectual? Synthese 190 (6):1153-1171.
N. Ángel Pinillos (2011). Coreference and Meaning. Philosophical Studies 154 (2):301-324.
Stephen R. Grimm (2012). “The Value of Understanding”. Philosophy Compass 7 (2):103-117.
Jennifer Hornsby & Jason Stanley (2005). II Reply by Jason Stanley. Hornsby on the Phenomenology of Speech. Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 79 (1):131–145.
K. Khalifa (2013). The Role of Explanation in Understanding. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 64 (1):161-187.
Similar books and articles
Cheng-Hung Tsai (2006). On the Epistemology of Language. Southern Journal of Philosophy 44 (4):677-696.
Daniel Whiting (2012). Epistemic Value and Achievement. Ratio 25 (2):216-230.
Katherine Hawley (2003). Success and Knowledge-How. American Philosophical Quarterly 40 (1):19 - 31.
Barry C. Smith (2006). What I Know When I Know a Language. In Ernest Lepore & Barry C. Smith (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Language. Oxford University Press.
David Simpson (2010). Language and Know-How. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 9 (4):629–643.
Cheng-Hung Tsai (2010). Practical Knowledge of Language. Philosophia 38 (2):331-341.
Ayca Boylu (2010). How Understanding Makes Knowledge Valuable. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 40 (4):591-609.
Gurpreet Rattan (2006). The Knowledge in Language. Croatian Journal of Philosophy 6 (3):505-521.
Barry C. Smith (2006). What We Know When We Know a Language. In Ernest Lepore & Barry C. Smith (eds.), Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Language. Oup Oxford.
Patricia Hanna (2006). Swimming and Speaking Spanish. Philosophia 34 (3):267-285.
Added to index2009-01-28
Total downloads96 ( #18,527 of 1,696,508 )
Recent downloads (6 months)7 ( #79,559 of 1,696,508 )
How can I increase my downloads?